I recently traveled to Djibouti, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vicki Huddleston and representatives from the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and a colleague from the Department's Bureau of African Affairs. This was the first trip to the region by an Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs in at least the last 10 years, and a unique opportunity to see first-hand much of the assistance we have provided to the region. My visit reinforced to me the importance of the efforts of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in Eastern and Central Africa to train peacekeepers, combat piracy, support military reform, and eliminate excessive quantities of small-arms. These security assistance programs, overseen by our Bureau, support the State Department's mission to promote stability and good governance and set the stage for humanitarian aid and development.
DASD Huddleston and I began our visit in Djibouti where we met with the President of Djibouti and other senior leaders to discuss counterterrorism issues, the future deployment of Djiboutian peacekeepers to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and maritime security. Djibouti also hosts the largest U.S. military presence on the continent, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) at Camp Lemonnier, which is very active in the region.
Djibouti is a new partner in our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) program and its implementing partner in Africa, the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program. Through GPOI and ACOTA, we are helping to train and equip a Djiboutian peacekeeping unit. I felt it was important to see the GPOI and ACOTA programs up close as they are the single largest peacekeeping programs on the continent. I visited the Djibouti National Peacekeeping Training Center, which we are supporting, located in a relatively austere and difficult training environment. There I met with the ACOTA trainers, U.S. military mentors, and Djiboutian peacekeeping trainees and was able to see first-hand the commitment and dedication of the U.S. trainers Djiboutian trainees alike. Peacekeeping capacity building is one of our major contributions to further peace and stability in Africa because of its need for additional peacekeepers -- in particular in Somalia, Sudan and, more recently, Cote d'Ivoire.
Djibouti is also central to our efforts to combat piracy, as it is on the front line of maritime threats including piracy in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters. I was able to visit the Djiboutian naval base where I saw the patrol boats and the radar that we have provided to Djibouti to increase its maritime security capabilities.
In Kenya, I observed another vital contribution of U.S. security assistance -- the International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC), which is helping to build peacekeeping capacity in East Africa. The IPSTC is supported by the United States and several other international donors and the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom all provide staff officers. I was very impressed by the work that has gone into the IPSTC which hosts year-round peacekeeping training courses for military and civilian personnel. Our contribution through the GPOI program is helping to meet the growing global demand for specialized personnel essential to successful peacekeeping missions.
On the trip, I also met with the head of the East Africa Standby Force to discuss ways in which the United States can support the African Union's pledge to have their Africa Standby Force fully operational by 2015. They face many challenges, but this is an important effort and we will do our best to tailor our assistance to meet the goals of developing peacekeeping capacity in East Africa.
My last stop on the trip was to the DRC where I observed another facet of our security assistance. The Government of the DRC faces many challenges in its effort to stabilize the country as a whole, integrate former rebel groups into its regular forces, and professionalize its military. To this end, we have, with the international community, focused our efforts on post-conflict security sector reform. Our goal is to help the Congolese government develop a military that can break with its past and better serve and protect the Congolese people. As the DRC military has well over 100,000 troops, defense sector reform is a long term effort whose progress will not be seen overnight. But our efforts are proving effective, as defense sector reform has advanced in the eastern DRC. I was extremely impressed with the training facilities at Camp Base in Kisangani, largely built with U.S. funds, and with the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) that we trained and equipped.
Finally, I observed another vital effort of the PM bureau: the removal and destruction of excessive quantities of military small arms and light weapons in the DRC. Since 2006, the United States has contributed nearly $5 million toward removal and destruction of excess small arms in the DRC, including more than 102,000 small arms and 315,000 tons of excess and unstable munitions. U.S.-funded Conventional Weapons Destruction programs are making a difference across the continent, promoting stability and mitigating threats to civilians.
While much work remains ahead, I am proud of the role that the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has played in increasing capacity in Africa through our GPOI and Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism programs, counter-piracy efforts, and defense sector reform programs. My trip to Africa provided me an invaluable look into the excellent work that the Department of State and the Department of Defense are doing together with regional partners to promote peace and security in Africa.